I thought I was a cool parent. In fact I thought my son’s friends thought I was a cool parent. Not a friend, but a cool parent. There is definitely a difference. I have my rules and I don’t budge on those, but I also consider myself to have a good sense of humor and a young personality. Well, over the past week I got a reality check.
For those of you that follow this blog you know that my son, CHASE, has a classmate that continues to pick on him, and being anxious, Chase needs coaching from time to time. So the other day he told me that this classmate saw him going down the hall to the water fountain. Knowing that Chase has a fear of the dark, this boy and his “partner in crime” waited for Chase to get well inside the vacant hall on his way to the water fountain and then the boy turned out the light on Chase. This caused Chase to slip and fall in the water that they had spilled in the hall and then Chase panicked. The two boys laughed and ran off. He was so embarrassed that he yelled. “I’m going to kill whoever did that!”
He told me about the incident and I said, “Part of the reason that the boy continues to pick on you is because you give him the reaction that he is looking for. Remember bullies are looking for attention. Why don’t you just say something like, “Whatever dude.” or “Yo, totally uncool.” ” He didn’t respond. I thought he must be processing this and thinking about when he might use it.
A few days later he told me that another boy in his class told one of his good friends that he was a “know it all”. His friend told Chase what the other boy said and so I replied, “Well at your age people get jealous of each other easily and maybe that boy is jealous because you are so smart. If you want to make friends then tone it down a little and don’t always show how much you know.” Then I said, “Why don’t you say, “Yo man, that’s what I’m good at. You’re probably good at basketball or something right?” He was quiet again and again I thought I had done a good job and now he was processing what I said. About thirty seconds went by and he looked at me and said, “Mom, we don’t talk like that.” I said, “What?” “You are talking like a surfer guy or something we don’t talk like that.”
I realized that I was out of my league and said, “Well, it’s just an example. Put it in your own words.” Later that night I had to laugh at myself. “I’m not as cool as I thought.”
I was having a conversation with a good friend this weekend, whose child also has anxiety, and we wanted to know if other parents who have children with anxiety have experienced the same dilemma that we have experienced. We thought it would be a good topic of discussion and so I told her that I would blog about it and see if we would get any feedback.
Both of our children know another student at school who will not leave them alone. The other student is bullying them in some way, but our child will not stand up for themselves. We’ve both encouraged our children to tell the other child to leave them alone, but both of our children say that they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
We know that both of our children are very sensitive and that is what makes it difficult for them to confront someone else. Their worries make it more painful for them to confront the bully than to just deal with it. However, they still feel sad about the situation.
In the past, when my son was bullied (by this same student) to the degree of sexual abuse. I talked to the appropriate school officials about it but it seemed like they wanted to pass the buck. They didn’t want to confront the student and their family. The responsibility fell on me to finally contact child protective services.
My point is that when I tried to make a difference for my child at school the school officials asked me to teach my child to stand up for himself. They didn’t address the bully. Their only concern was for my child to stand up for himself. I already knew my child needed help standing up for himself and I was already addressing that issue.
So my question is have you experienced something similar and why do so many people side with the bully and blame the victim? I would love to hear your feedback.
I attended a “stop bullying” workshop this weekend with my eleven year old son and my eight year old daughter. In the class the leaders taught the children that there were all types of bullies. They said that there were fat bullies, thin bullies, tall bullies short bullies, girl bullies, boy bullies, adult bullies, and child bullies, but all bullies were insecure. The leaders also suggested that most bullies want attention, and that most bullies don’t feel good about themselves. Below are the tips that I learned from the workshop and that I thought were the most realistic for an anxious child to apply to their own situations.
1. Ignore the person who is bullying you. This one was my favorite because this tactic takes the wind out of the bully’s sail. The leaders of the workshop acted out a possible bullying scenario and it was funny to watch what happens to the bully in a situation like this. The victim pretended not to hear the bully and walked away and all of a sudden the bully was the one that looked uncomfortable and insecure. This tactic works even better if there are people around because the other people will all be staring at the bully which will add to his or her discomfort.
2. Agree with the bully. If the bully tells you that your are fat agree with them by saying something like, “Yeah, I am getting fat I need to stop eating so many lucky charms.” The bully will be stumped and will learn that he can not bring you down. Most bullies want you to feel as insecure as they do. When they realize that they can’t do that to you they will pick on someone else.
3. Laugh at yourself. If the bully laughs because you tripped, make fun of how you looked when you tripped. The bully doesn’t win.
4. Call out to a friend or an adult that you see. It brings attention to yourself and will cause the bully to stop.
5. At a last resort take a defensive stance and make a lot of noise about it. This will tell the bully that you mean business.
After the class my small fair-haired daughter wore her stop bullying t-shirt everywhere we went and I saw people read her shirt and smile. Even the biggest toughest looking boys looked at her with respect. She was oblivious to people’s reactions but I was not and I saw how much respect she got by wearing that opinionated shirt. She radiated confidence.
I must admit I’ve been taking a break from blogging in order to celebrate! My eleven year son who has a lot of anxiety was able to go on a camping trip with his class and spend two nights and three days! This was a huge accomplishment for Chase, who has a phobia of sleeping, and it warmed my heart to see how proud he was of himself after he did it. It was not easy and it took the help of some very compassionate and dedicated school advisors to help him or should I say exhaust him. He called me twice the first night telling me how scared he was because the other boys had been telling scary stories. Then at eleven p.m. he told me he wanted me to pick him up and bring him home. After he realized that his plight was futile I tried to help him relax for the next hour.
The next day I talked to the chaperone, Mr. Andrews, who told me that Chase didn’t sleep all night and that he paced the floors, but Mr. Andrews said “I am confident that I will be able to wear him down today!” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that comment but I was hopeful that he knew what he was doing because what I had been doing sure wasn’t working. Just as I expected I got another phone call that night from Chase begging me to come pick him up. I reassured him that he was going to be able to sleep because I knew deep down inside Chase wanted to be able to sleep at camp. I told him that he was so tired that he was going to lay down in bed and fall asleep in a second and that is exactly what ended up happening. He even slept through his roommates screaming in the middle of the night because they thought a wolf spider was in the cabin.
I don’t know if there are other parents out there that feel the way that I do (exhausted by the end of the day), but if you are like me you probably invest a lot of your life helping your children to grow, learn, build self-esteem, make new friends, and SLEEP through the night. At the end of the day I usually feel like if one more hand tugs on my shirt, one more voice asks for help, one more scream needs attention or one more pet paw steps on my foot I’m going to sit in the time out chair and stay there. On the other hand I don’t know what is more rewarding than seeing that my efforts have paid off! I sometimes forget to be so grateful for the things that are right in front of me because I’m so busy trying to take care of someone or something. I see other kids doing something terrific and say “why don’t my kids do that?” Then when it’s quiet in the morning and I’m the only one awake and I’m waiting to hear the footsteps of little feet coming down the stairs, I remember how grateful I am of the family that I’ve been given and the opportunity that I have to celebrate their accomplishments with them. The quiet mornings help me to remember how different we all are as human beings and one person’s accomplishment is just as great as the next. After all life is so short that it can pass us by while we are busy trying to get it right. I have to remind myself to live life sometimes instead of work it. I remember that saying “Life is what happens when your busy making plans.” I think it also applies to making promises, making goals, and making expectations. So as a part of my celebration I did nothing! I realized that by watching my family I didn’t need to take care of anything or anyone. They are quite capable of finding their own happiness. They are also quite capable of finding their shoes, pouring their own lemonade, fixing their own snack and organizing their own life. I’m sure I’ll forget this tomorrow, but today I’m celebrating.
I ran into a friend today who told me that her daughter was having a hard time adjusting to a new school. Her daughter went from a sheltered private school to a diverse charter school and felt like a fish out of water to say the least. Her outgoing, fun-loving daughter had turned into a nervous wreck. She couldn’t eat breakfast or lunch and she was not wanting to go back to school. Knowing what it was like to have an anxious child, I could understand my friends concern for her daughter.
When you have a child with anxiety it can be hard to know if they are just going through a phase or if they have serious condition that needs professional help. The symptoms can be ambiguous and a lot of parents are wary of medications. If your child is adjusting to a new environment your child most likely just needs time to meet new friends, or learn new rules. If your child developes a fear of a specific thing or situation out of the blue then your child might have a phobia and meeting with a therapist can be helpful. If your child is not eating at all you will need to see a doctor to make sure that your child is getting the right vitamins and if it goes on for longer than a few days you need to make an appointment with a therapist. If your child continues to feel so anxious that she/he can not eat you will need to see a psychiatrist to talk about starting your child on medications and/or vitamins. The bottom line is that if your child is not able to function like other children his/her age then you need to pay attention to your child and address that issue appropriately (through therapy or a psychiatrist).
There are medications that are specifically for anxiety and there are medications that are specifically for depression and there are medications to treat both anxiety and depression. I strongly recommend that you take your child to see a psychiatrist and not a primary care doctor because a psychiatrist is a specialist who treats mood disorders. A specialist knows all of the details about specific medications for specific symptoms. When you are trying medicine for your child you have to keep an open mind and remember that all children are different so sometimes you will have to try several different medications to get the right effect. Be patient and keep an open dialogue about medications and symptoms with your child. Some side effects are stomach aches, headaches, low blood pressure, dizziness. You want to pay attention to any symptoms that your child has and discuss those with the doctor.
Another possibility is alternative medicine. There is evidence that certain vitamins will help with moods. You will need to talk to your doctor about the dosages that are appropriate, but some vitamins that help lift moods are vitamin B12, vitamin D, SAME, and St. John’s Wort to name a few.
A lot of anxiety symptoms in children can be treated with therapy, but when that doesn’t help it’s time to seek other solutions to help your child feel better. A Child Psychiatrist is the best fit for this situation.